Windowsill Gardens During the Winter Months

Winter can be dull and void of growing, but you can change that by growing your very own windowsill garden to drive away those winter blues.

| December 1994/January 1995

You know how around the end of January every winter the cold seems to break and it feels like spring for a few days? Snow gets slushy, willow whips turn yellow, and you can open up and air out the house for a while on one beautiful, warm morning. But, just when you are getting used to the warmth, Ol' Man Winter returns on the heels of a blizzard. Spirits fall, the heavy jackets come out of the closet again, and you wonder if spring will ever, ever come.

We have a sure cure for these late-winter blues. On the windowsills all around the house, we grow mini-gardens. Not houseplants mind you, but edibles and wild plants that we grow for fun and for their promise of summer sun to come.  

Our daughter, Jamie, got us started. Home from first grade on a no-school snow day, she was helping me peel the last of our homegrown potatoes just up from the cold cellar in the basement. They were good-keeping Kennebecs grown from double-certified, organic state of Maine stock purchased from Johnny's Selected Seeds. My husband, Jim, planted them late and left them in the ground to winter-cure until frost threatened. Still, they were covered with 3 to 6-inch-long water sprouts.  

Jamie asked what the bleached, sunseeking shoots were. When I explained that the potatoes were trying to grow baby potatoes, her little face fell. "Can we plant them?" she asked. I looked out the window at the blizzard howling through the bean pole tipis and old tomato stakes in the garden, and suddenly, there wasn't really a foot of ice out there. It was spring, and I could feel the sun-warmed loam in my hands; I remembered how my Granddad always insisted that water sprouts made the hardiest potatoes of all. "Let's try it," I said.  

We rifled the cellar for potting soil, and I punched holes in the bottom of a coffee can. Some sprouts had little nubbins of roots around the base, and I cut out the half-dozen sturdiest just as you'd eye a potato. We planted them with just the tips showing and set them in a cool but bright north window that mimicked spring growing conditions. We watched, watered sparingly and cheered them on. Within a month, Jamie had thriving, deep-green, crinkly leafed little potato plants to take to show-and-tell.  

Since then, we've been devoted winter windowsill gardeners, trying to grow every seed, plant, root or berry we run across in the yard, woods or grocery store. There aren't any books on it, so my husband Jim and I use our gardening experience where we can. With exotics or wildlings, we consult gardening books and the encyclopedia, trying to replicate a plant's natural ecology. It's all for fun and learning, and each failure teaches us something.  

9/23/2015 5:21:39 AM

I have on my window sills but they are mounted on the outside of the windows. I have never thought of putting such on the inside, too, and grow my own veggies in them. On the outside I only have some buxus plants with seasonal blooms. I think I'm going to change my growing strategy and leave the flowers and evergreens, and start growing food. :) This is a great idea.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard